The great British summer (or lack of) is a long standing joke amongst many of us as we hold out for an optimistic week or two of sunshine each year. When the sun does appear, many of us forget that caution still needs to be employed to protect the skin against the damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

In the past decade rates of skin cancer have soared by 57 percent among males and 39 percent among females. Yearly increases in reported cases of skin cancer make the disease the most common form of cancer in the UK; claiming over 2500 lives each year. Whilst we take the necessary steps to protect ourselves when away on holiday it is believed that many are underestimating the threat of UV rays in the UK, with exposure to sunlight forming the leading preventable cause of skin cancer.

Some individuals are considered more at risk than others, with work related skin cancer now becoming a concerning occupational hazard along with other more commonly known workplace related diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Those employed in the construction, leisure and agricultural industries are considered most at risk; currently making up almost 250 of diagnosed cases per year. Interestingly, among other factors such as working environment, a study conducted by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health also attributed this risk to the ‘macho culture’ typically inherent within these male dominated industries, perhaps resulting in less efforts being made to protect the skin from the sun’s rays. 60 percent of respondents involved in the survey admitted to suffering from sunburn at least once in the past year whilst working outdoors.

Sunburn can cause irreversible damage to the skin and appropriate steps should always be taken to reduce the risk of preventable exposure to UV light. Following the publication of their report, the Institution of Occupational Health and Safety are now encouraging businesses and employers to introduce ‘sun safety strategies’ in an attempt to manage the risk of work related skin cancer posed to employees. Proposed health and safety measures include the requirement of employees to wear high factor sun cream when the sun is at its strongest as well as the provision of protective clothing such as long sleeve tops and UV resistant sunglasses.

The threat of skin cancer is very real, and where outdoor jobs necessitate extensive potential exposure to the sun, it is vital that employees are provided with adequate protection.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with skin cancer and believe that exposure to the sun at work is a contributory factor, please get in touch with us for advice. Our workplace accident and disease solicitors will advise you free of charge and can help you to pursue a claim on a no win no fee basis. Contact us on 0845 050 1958 or alternatively, you can complete an online enquiry form.

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